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Marriage License Requirements

California, known for its stunning landscapes and diverse culture, is not only a popular tourist destination but also a place where many couples choose to tie the knot. If you’re considering getting married in the Golden State, you’ll need to navigate the intricacies of marriage licenses and their associated fees. In this article, we’ll break down the differences between public and confidential marriage licenses and provide you with essential information to make your wedding journey smoother.


Planning a wedding involves numerous details, and one crucial aspect is obtaining a marriage license. Whether you’re a California resident or planning a destination wedding, understanding the types of marriage licenses and their associated fees is essential. Let’s delve into the differences between public and confidential marriage licenses and what you need to know before saying “I do.”

Understanding Marriage License Types

In California, there are two primary types of marriage licenses: public and confidential. Each type has its own unique features and purposes, catering to different preferences and needs.

Public Marriage License

What is a Public Marriage License?

A public marriage license is a document available for public viewing. It contains essential information about the couple, including their names, addresses, and other relevant details. This type of license is ideal for couples who have no concerns about their personal information being accessible to others.

Viewing Access and Privacy

As the name suggests, a public marriage license can be accessed by anyone, making it a matter of public record. This means that if you opt for a public license, the information on it can be viewed by anyone interested, including family members, researchers, and curious individuals.

Required Information for Application

To apply for a public marriage license, both parties must appear together at the County Clerk / Recorder’s office. You’ll need to bring valid photo identification, such as a driver’s license or passport. Additionally, you’ll need to provide the appropriate fee in cash.

See also  San Joaquin County Marriage License Requirements

Residency and Waiting Period

One advantage of a public marriage license is that there is no waiting period. Once you submit your application, you’ll receive your marriage license immediately, allowing you to proceed with your wedding plans promptly.

Confidential Marriage License

What is a Confidential Marriage License?

A confidential marriage license, on the other hand, offers a higher level of privacy. It protects personal information on the license from public view. Only a court order or a notarized application by either spouse can grant access to the information.

Protecting Personal Information

If you value privacy and prefer to keep your personal details confidential, a confidential marriage license might be the right choice for you. This type of license ensures that sensitive information remains restricted and is only accessible under specific circumstances.

Eligibility for Confidential License

To obtain a confidential marriage license, both parties (referred to as party A and party B) must be living together as a married couple. The same identification requirements, such as valid photo identification, apply to this type of license as well.

ID Requirements and Waiting Period

Just like with a public marriage license, you’ll need to present valid photo identification, such as a driver’s license or passport, when applying for a confidential license. The advantage is that there’s no waiting period, and you’ll receive your license immediately after submission.

Marriage License Fees

Public Marriage License Fee

For those opting for a public marriage license, the fee is $65. This fee allows you to access a marriage license that is available for public viewing. It’s important to note that payment is typically accepted in cash, so be sure to bring the appropriate amount with you.

Confidential Marriage License Fee

If you choose the confidential route, the fee is $78. This higher fee ensures that your personal information remains protected from public view. While cash is the preferred payment method, it’s advisable to inquire about alternative payment options beforehand.

See also  Riverside County Marriage License Requirements

Payment Options

Aside from cash, some County Clerk / Recorder’s offices may accept other forms of payment. To avoid any inconvenience, it’s recommended to call ahead and inquire about acceptable payment methods.

Application Process

How to Apply for a Marriage License

To begin the application process, visit the official website of your County Clerk / Recorder’s office. Look for the “Application” link, which will lead you to the online marriage application form. Complete the form, print it out, and bring it with you to the office.

Required Documentation

Both parties must appear together at the office, presenting valid photo identification and the completed application form. It’s essential to bring the appropriate fee in cash as well. The staff at the office will guide you through the process and ensure that you have all the necessary documents.

Proxy Marriages and Cousin Marriages

In California, marriage by proxy is not allowed. This means that both parties, the marriage officiant, and any witnesses must be physically present at the same location during the marriage ceremony. However, it’s worth noting that first and second cousins are legally permitted to marry in California.

Marriage Officiants

Who Can Solemnize Your Marriage?

California Family Code outlines the individuals authorized to officiate marriage ceremonies. The list includes:

  • Priests, ministers, or rabbis of any religious denomination
  • Judges, retired judges, commissioners of civil marriages, or retired commissioners of civil marriages
  • Legislators or constitutional officers of the state, as well as members of Congress representing districts within the state

Returning the Marriage License

The person officiating the marriage must return the original marriage license to the County Clerk or County Recorder within ten days of the ceremony. It’s crucial to ensure that all information on the license is legible, accurate, and reproducible to avoid any issues.

Expiration and Validity

Expiry Date of Marriage License

Marriage licenses are valid for 90 days from the date of issuance. If you don’t get married within this timeframe, the license becomes invalid. In such cases, you’ll need to purchase a new license to proceed with your marriage plans.

See also  Sutter County Marriage License Requirements

Usability Across California

Both public and confidential marriage licenses can be used throughout the state of California. This means that your chosen license type remains valid regardless of the county in which you plan to marry.


Navigating the intricacies of marriage licenses is an important step in preparing for your wedding day. Whether you prioritize privacy or have no concerns about public access, California offers options to suit your preferences. Remember to carefully review the requirements, gather the necessary documents, and select the license type that aligns with your needs. With the details sorted, you can focus on celebrating your love and embarking on this exciting journey together.

Frequently Asked Questions

  1. Can I change the information on my marriage license after it’s issued? No, altering information on the marriage license, such as using white-out or crossing out details, will require obtaining a duplicate license. For accuracy, ensure all information is correct before submission.
  2. What if my marriage license expires before I get married? If your marriage license expires before you tie the knot, you’ll need to purchase a new license. It’s important to keep track of the expiration date to avoid any inconveniences.
  3. Can I apply for a marriage license online? While you can complete the marriage application form online, both parties must appear in person at the County Clerk / Recorder’s office to finalize the process.
  4. Are blood tests required to obtain a marriage license in California? No, California no longer requires blood tests as part of the marriage license application process.
  5. Is marriage by proxy allowed in California? No, California does not allow marriage by proxy. Both parties and the officiant must be physically present for the marriage ceremony.

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